This is annual event has its roots all the way back in 1844. Locations of the fair have changed over the years and in spite of enduring financial hardship caused by such things as the polio scare of the 1950s and a hurricane that wiped out most of existing structures the fair is today a thriving event and both locals and visitors look forward to it each summer.
It is a classic county fair, with animal acts, some of which have been controversial in recent years, a midway, exhibits of local crafts, flowers and vegetables, a demolition derby (one of the most popular events!), horse shows and competitions, livestock judging, plenty of incredibly indulgent junk food, and much more. The admission charge is nominal and includes admission to all the exhibits (rides in the midway must be paid for of course). But my favorite aspect has always been the music.
Both nationally known acts and local bands are featured. Of course, this is NOT the Texas State Fair or the like, so you won’t see the hottest stars, but the musicians I’ve seen over the many years my family has been attending have often been quite remarkable. Sometimes they are nostalgia acts, or musicians past their prime in terms of general popularity – but that does not mean they are bad. Some memorable examples:
Country legend Tammy Wynette. I can’t recall the year but it was shortly before she passed away. Tammy put on a great show and you could tell she was sincerely appreciative of the audience’s loving reaction to her.
Country star Ricky Scaggs. Again, can’t recall the year but it was after his pop country star status had faded in the 1980s but he had yet to gain the status of bluegrass superstar that he enjoys today. Again, a classic country performer who knows how to put on a great show. His guitar and mandolin playing were absolutely amazing.
The Mama’s and Papa’s. Well, actually only Papa John was an original member but he brought along (unannounced) his friend Scott McKenzie of “If You’re Going to San Fransisco” fame to do Denny’s parts, and the two young women who took Michelle and Cass’s parts were great – the classic M&P harmonies were spot-on and they did all the hits. Papa John was hilarious in his banter with the audience. As a side note, this was when our kids were about ages 5 and 10, and my wife and I threatened to get up and start dancing to “California Dreaming,” which absolutely horrified them! What good is having kids if you can’t embarrass them?!
Poco. Wow, what a show. Three of the four original members, great playing and singing by this seminal group that were in for forefront of the California country rock scene.
Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits. A hilarious show and tons of fun. Yes, Peter is a bit “long of tooth” to be playing off his boyish grin and blonde bangs but he and his band knew what the fans wanted and expected. The best part was watching the a-bit-older-than-middle-aged women dancing away in front of the stage and trying to flirt with Peter, who flirted right back. The show culminated with The Big One: a fully 15 minute version of “I’m “En-er-y the Eighth, I Y’am!” with robust sing-along encouraged. Everyone left with grins on their faces. I’m smiling just thinking about it!
Two years ago was Three Dog Night. While I was not a huge fan of theirs back in the day, with three of the original members giving it their all (including a killer covers of “Shambala”, “Mama Told Me Not To Come” and of course the finale “Joy To The World”) it was a great show. With 21 Top 40 hits in the 60s and early 70s, they had plenty to play. In retrospect it is bittersweet because member Cory Wells, who did most of the lead vocals died a few months later. Glad we saw them when we did, they too truly loved and appreciated their long-time fans.
One year there was a touring Beatles tribute act who were quite amazing, with period correct instruments and of course plenty of banter. Their chops were first rate, and I am very picky when it comes to Beatles music!
There were a few others that I can’t recall at this moment. But why am I writing this now? The line-up for this years’ fair (July 17 – 23 at the Barnstable County Fairgrounds on Rt. 151 in Falmouth) includes BJ Thomas (I think I will pass on that as I do not need to hear “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” ever again, thank you very much, or “Hooked on a Feeling” for that matter!), the Cowsills (the Cowsills??? Ugh, hated them back then and I doubt they’d change my mind now). And….
Blood, Sweat and Tears!! Yes, their line-up had changed over the years – no David Clayton Thomas for sure, but I am absolutely certain they will put on an outstanding show. I loved them back then and I still love their music today. In fact, they were the first really big deal band I ever saw live, at my (now) wife’s college in Pennsylvania. They were at their peak of popularity and because my wife was on the entertainment committee we had second row seats. Outstanding!! Also, bringing their (2nd and most popular) album home for the Christmas holidays and putting it on the turntable, my dad, hardcore jazzer and rock music hater, took great interest and declared, hey those guys are GOOD! They can play JAZZ! It was big moment in our relationship, to be honest. So I will always love BS&T and I can’t wait to hear them again.
The frosting on the cake is that we will have my niece and her two young children visiting and I know they will love the fair. And who knows, maybe my wife and I can bust some moves to “Spinning Wheel” and slow-dance to “You Made Me So Very Happy” and embarrass them too!
If you happen to be on Cape Cod this summer, check out the Barnstable County Fair!
Peace & good music,